Photo by EvelynGiggles
This room looks like a tornado went through! How on earth do you ever find anything in this mess?
Most creative people have had a version of this conversation at some point in their lives, be it with a parent, a friend or partner, or a well-meaning mentor or teacher.
Invariably, the offered solution was a thorough cleaning, perhaps accompanied by a purge of the piles and a new, shiny filing system.
But what happened when the dust settled and you tried to go back to the project?
Chances are you had difficulty picking it back up. You went to pull out all the things you needed, and within hours the desk was just as covered as it had been prior to the intervention.
Who Do I Think You Are?
Despite what your mother might have thought, you’re not genetically incapable of organization. You’re gifted with the Fantastical personality type, and you have a unique ability to dive into a difficult problem and emerge, hours (or days) later with a perfect solution.
But in order to do this you need to keep all the pieces of the problem in front of you. If it’s not within eyesight, it might as well not exist.
Anything repetitive is the antithesis of what you naturally find attractive – in your mind, the problems have been solved or the decision has already been made, so what’s the point in going through it again on paper?
But how can I possibly know your type when I’ve never even met you?
I’ll admit I could be wrong. But I’ve worked with a lot of creative entrepreneurs since I first started this line of research a year ago, and almost all of them were Fantasticals. I’m one myself – we’re incredibly creative, and we’re always coming up with new ideas to tinker with.
Chances are you’ve never been able to keep focus on a single project for weeks on end. You may spend a few days working on one thing, but there’s always something else standing off to the side, waiting for your attention.
And where does the term Fantastical come from? I’m sure you’ve never heard of this particular personality designation before. It’s based on the work of Katherine Benziger, whose brilliant PhD thesis elaborated on the the idea of falsifying type and working in harmony with our natural strengths.
I’ve taken that and adapted it to organization, time management and productivity. My adaption includes four types – Fantastical, Analytical, Environmental and Structural. I can’t say there’s anything scientific behind the names. I chose them because I found them more user-friendly than the original basal right, basal left, frontal right and frontal left.
Since I’m guessing you’re a Fantastical, I’m going to use this post to show you how to construct an environment that accommodates your brain while still allowing you to contribute your essential abilities to the world around you.
(If you think I’m wrong about your type, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to give you type-specific tips!)
To start off with, let’s ditch your filing system. It’s been months since you put anything into it anyway, so it’s just serving to hide things that you need to keep in front of you.
Clear off enough space on your desk to create a pile for each project you’re working on. Contrary to popular belief, you do know exactly what’s in all of those piles, and you need to keep them front and center where you can see them.
If your desk is too small, clear off space on the floor or hang a shelf at face level above your desk to serve as a place to store the ideas you’re working on.
Once you finish with an idea, move the entire pile to a folder, binder or box and put it into long term storage. Feel free to cull papers from the pile, but it’s really not necessary. The goal here is to make space for your next ideas, but still keep the important pieces in a place where you can find what you need in one to two minutes.
If you have the space, you can break your project piles into sub-projects, but only if you truly feel the need. Each additional category makes the system more complex, and most Fantasticals would much prefer to spend their complexity on their ideas than their environment.
Keep the Big Picture in Front of You
Second, try to clear off enough wall space for a piece of poster board in an area that you see daily.
Divide the board into twelve equal pieces, one for each month. Then take a big permanent marker and write in the target months for each project you’re working on. Having them right in front of you will remind you of their existence and help overcome your tendency to get caught up in your newest idea.
If your files are primarily digital you’ll have a bit more of a challenge, but also a lot more flexibility.
Just like you would create project piles in the physical world, create project folders in the digital world. Keep them simple and logical – for example, I keep all my business related files in one folder with each project in a separate sub-folder. When there are logical categories within a sub-folder, I’ll create a tag or folder for them, but I don’t worry if I have files floating around in my Business folder that don’t have a specific location.
When it comes to ideas, digital storage offers some amazing advantages to physical space. One of my absolute favorite programs is called Personal Brain, which allows you to create mind-map style idea webs where you can draw connections between nodes and attach images, screen shots, documents and pdf files to the appropriate places.
Being able to see your ideas spread out on a screen is tremendously helpful when it comes to making connections between them and pulling in additional information to build them up to bigger and better levels.
Maybe the Fantastical personality sounds great, but just… not exactly you. There are three other types to consider.
If you’re a creative entrepreneur but you don’t think you’re a Fantastical, chances are you’re an Analytical. This type is a great big picture thinker and is extremely motivated and goal oriented.
Or you could be an Environmental, the type that is focused on the people around them and whether the environment is welcoming and comfortable.
Chances are you’re not a Structural (I’ve only met one creative entrepreneur who was a Structural), but I’ll bet you know someone who is. Structurals thrive on routines and systems, are great at organization and write the vast majority of books on time management and organization.
What Do You Make of This?
Do you think the Fantastical is an accurate representation of your talents?
If not, what type do you think you are?
Have you used any of the techniques in this article, and if so, are they helpful to your organization and work flow?
About the Author: Kirsten Simmons is an author and coach. Interested in learning more about the Productivity Personality Theory? Come by Personalized Productivity to take a short quiz to determine your personality type and get more tips to create your custom systems for time management, organization and productivity!